In The Mix

Road Rules

For this reality star, life’s challenges call for compassion.

Paula Hendrickson
  • History/Cineflix

Ever since American Pickers debuted on the History Channel in 2010, Danielle Colby has been feeding leads to creator-host Mike Wolfe and cohost Frank Fritz, supporting their search for small-town treasures.

But she’s more than the lady in the Le Claire, Iowa, office who makes things run smoothly for the guys on the road. She’s also a mom, a producer, a burlesque dancer and a woman on a mission.

Missions, actually. Along with being a vocal advocate for mental health, she’s aided in several relief missions to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

“My dad did missionary work, and my mom did local work with people in need,” she says. “I grew up going to nursing homes and homeless shelters. That’s what we did on the weekends. We went to people’s houses and helped them clean and make food. It’s neighbor-helping-neighbor stuff. This time the neighbor is a little further away.”

Despite a close relationship with her parents, Colby faced struggles growing up. “I dealt with my depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and body image issues through self-harm,” she says. “If you can get therapy — which a lot of people, sadly, in this country can’t afford — they’ll help you work through it with coping skills so you don’t add trauma.”

Those body image issues — and a lifelong love of dancing — drew Colby to burlesque after she hung up her roller-derby skates. (She owned and played on a roller derby team for three years.)

“I was trying to figure out why I hated myself so much. ‘Why are you afraid to go out in public with people? Why all the insecurity?’ I got to the point where I was like, ‘Nope. I’m not doing this anymore,’” she recalls. “Burlesque, and roller derby as well, have helped me grow as a woman.”

She also tours with a band (Gin Rummy Show), was executive producer of Tempest Storm, a 2016 documentary about a  burlesque dancer, and works with Batey Girls, a nonprofit that supports  women in the Dominican Republic.

Having found her voice, she uses it to speak up for others. “Everybody  needs love, peace and calm in their life. Otherwise they become a hurricane,  and all of this tumultuous energy they have inside — they become that on the  outside. These are the people who, if they cannot get help, don’t know how to cope without hurting others.”

When someone takes issue with her passions or appearance, Colby responds with understanding. “People who are hating are also hurting, so I always try to respond with love. Sometimes it’s as simple as, ‘You’re having a bad day — I hope it gets better,’ and a hug,” she says.

“I’m not always full of love — don’t get me wrong,” she admits. “But girl, if you don’t try, this world will drive you crazy.”

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 8, 2018